Thank you, Buccaneers, for finally ending our collective misery. And Josh Freeman's, of course. The Bucs released Freeman on Thursday, giving the fifth-year pro a chance to land with another team and double dip into the salary pool. There's no need to rehash all of the drama surrounding Freeman, but it's worth noting that the Bucs' 2009 draft class no longer exists. Well, it exists. Just not on Tampa Bay's roster.
And speaking of that 2009 draft class, it was a pretty terrible first round. There are a handful of nice players, like B.J. Raji, Clay Matthews (nicely done, Packers). Brian Orakpo and Brian Cushing also stand out. Matthew Stafford was worthy of the No. 1 overall selection. But by and large this class stunk.
Jason Smith, Tyson Jackson, Aaron Curry and Mark Sanchez rounded out the top five. Holy woof.
Andre Smith emerged as a strong right tackle in 2012, before getting paid. Darrius Heyward-Bey is already on his second team. Same with Eugene Monroe. Michael Crabtree has an electric stretch of games but are we sure that wasn't just Colin Kaepernick?
Aaron Maybin could make a case for one of the biggest busts we've seen in a while, but at least he can paint. Knowshon Moreno keeps his head above water in the Denver backfield despite everyone's best efforts. Malcolm Jenkins rounds out the top 15 guys in this draft class not already mentioned.
Outside those first 15 picks, we have Matthews, Alex Mack and Percy Harvin as Pro Bowl players. But Harvin was traded this past offseason; you don't do that with a franchise wide receiver. The next closest thing to such a wideout in this class is either Jeremy Maclin, Hakeem Nicks or Kenny Britt. Pick your poison -- injury or off-field concerns and injury.
Vontae Davis is on his second team, the Colts. Donald Brown remains with Indy because all of their other running backs keep getting injured. He has been a massive bust. Beanie Wells' next team will be his second, if he can find one. Brandon Pettigrew never lived up to expectations.
And that's basically the summation of the 2009 draft class. There were some notable exceptions later on in the draft: LeSean McCoy (53rd), William Moore (55), Jairus Byrd (42), Paul Kruger (57), Sebastian Vollmer (58) … actually the second round is already better than the first and I haven't mentioned Max Unger (49) or Andy Levitre (51).
But a draft is defined by its first round. And in 2009, the opening salvo was a stinker. We were reminded just how bad it was when the second of three "franchise" quarterbacks was shipped out of town before his 26th birthday.
CHIEFS (-3½) at Titans: Want the ultimate proof that winning cures everything? Chris Johnson is averaging 3.3 yards per carry, complaining about fantasy owners, generally being a worse player than Shonn Greene and NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT THIS. CJ?K's got 84 carries for 277 yards on the year, which is actually good … if you're comparing it to his start from 2012. Last year Johnson started out with four (!), 17 and 24-yard games before busting out against Houston in Week 4. He was still boom or bust throughout the year -- as expected -- but this season he's got Chance Warmack and Andy Levitre added to his line. I will say this: Pittsburgh, Houston and the Jets are a tough set of matchups. But if you take out his game against San Diego (19 carries, 90 yards, 4.74 YPC ) he's averaging 2.88 yards per carry. The Chiefs are giving up 5.4 per carry this season but Johnson should still see some stacked boxes with Ryan Fitzpatrick's soda-pop arm under center.
Saints at BEARS (-½): Is it cool if I just update Jimmy Graham's on-pace numbers every week when the Saints play? What the tight end is doing, in a contract year no less, is mind-boggling. A quarter of the way through the season Graham's on pace for 1,832 yards, 108 catches and 24 touchdowns. Here's a list of players in the 1800/100/20 club. The only player -- any player, not just tight ends -- to pull off a season is Jerry Rice in 1997. Graham's also single-handedly holding a score of fantasy teams together, leading all non-quarterbacks in total points scored (81, by my count, in a standard CBS league). And there's this:
But I'm sure the Bears will be able to stop him using their Cover-2 def ... *furiously scrambles to change pick*. (No but seriously I'm taking the Bears because Drew Brees and the Saints struggle outdoors.)
LIONS (+7½) at Packers: My buddy RJ Bell of PreGame.com -- a great follow on Twitter -- always has a cornucopia of betting statistics for the NFL week that is/was. My favorites this week involve Green Bay and Detroit. You probably already know the Lions are 0-22 playing at Green Bay. (If you didn't, they are.) But as RJ points out, they're also 4-17-1 against the spread when playing in Green Bay and, to make matters worse, in games after scoring 30 points or more, the Lions have lost 10 straight games against the spread the following week. Yes, the Lions topped 30 last week while eviscerating the Bears.
BUT WAIT. THERE'S MORE. The Packers are coming off a bye, they're 31-11 against the spread versus division opponents (all stats since 1990) and are 15-2 against the spread following a loss. Oh yeah, Aaron Rodgers has ONE loss against a divisional opponent in his entire career.
Naturally I'm ignoring these trends and taking the Lions. If I wasn't obsessed with Reggie Bush's impact on the Lions offense and/or this point spread was less than a touchdown I'd go the other way.
SEAHAWKS (-3½) at Colts: I had a long diatribe about the stunning nature of the "Who would you take between Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck?" debate because, well, it's pretty crazy that Russell supplanted Robert Griffin III in that discussion. (He obviously leapfrogged Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and any of the Kirk Cousins/Nick Foles crowd a long time ago.) But then Jim Irsay had to go full WTF Internet on us Thursday night:
FIRE UP Colts Nation 4 Sunday! Loud n Proud! Stay tuned for 10 winners-2 free tics,$100,Colts Hat! http://t.co/o6KTH6iWGN— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) October 4, 2013
PATRIOTS (-1½) at Bengals: Recommended reading: David Grann's The Devil and Sherlock Holmes. Grann also wrote the excellent The Lost City of Z and this isn't a novel -- it's a series of longer essays. One deals with geriatric bank robbers, one deals with a benign identity thief, one deals with the bizarre death surrounding an even more bizarre dude obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and, most importantly, one even deals with Rickey Henderson. It involves this quote, from Ricky on steroids: "They kept that sh-t a secret from me. I wish they had told me. My God, can you imagine Rickey on 'roids? Oh, baby, look out!" Read it here.
Eagles at GIANTS (-2½): Maybe this will make me sound like a jerk but the NFL's got to reign in the pink. Specifically the pink flags. I love breast cancer awareness (and, therefore, hate breast cancer) as much as anyone. But we've got pink uniforms, pink cleats, pink gloves, pink ribbons, pink towels ...
We even have PINK SMOKE.
There's no question what's happening here. We want to eliminate breast cancer. And yes, I understand that an 11-year-old boy came up with the idea for the pink flags. That's very cute and very awesome and great that Roger Goodell implemented something that a small child thought of. I'm pretty sure I liked the idea when it was proposed.
But we don't need to think someone's throwing a shoe every time there's a penalty.
Jaguars at RAMS (-11½): If you read this column on Fridays you already know my policy of blindly picking against the Jaguars regardless of what the spread is (next week should be fun!). So instead let's all watch this video of Keegan Bradley blindly hitting a spectator in the head with a golf ball. I really hope this dude got more than a signed glove.
And not to innundate you with golf stuff but holy cow is the President's Cup awesomely full of GIFs and pictures and stuff.
Ravens at DOLPHINS (-3½): This is the third of three games that has a terrifying 3.5-point spread. And I'm fairly certain that I hate every single end that I'm on right now. The Chiefs and Seahawks are both road chalk and the Fins are coming off a short week having gotten manhandled by the Saints. Jonathan Martin cannot possibly block Terrell Suggs. Miami is giving up 4.2 yards per carry on the ground and couldn't stop Darren Sproles out of the backfield last week; the Ravens want to feed Ray Rice and he's clearly headed for a monster game. But here's my thing: Ryan Tannehill and Lamar Miller. Miami's young duo is showing signs of breaking out, the Ravens can stink on the road quite easily (see: last week) and Baltimore looks too obvious.
PANTHERS (-2½) at Cardinals: It's only his third year so it may be too early to wonder about "wasting" Cam Newton, but does anything define the cap and personnel hell the Panthers plunged themselves into better than the trade of Jon Beason for a late-round pick? Beason's a former All-Pro who at one point was debated with Patrick Willis as the best young linebacker in the game. No, really. He's a shell of himself at this point, having suffered enough injuries to the point that Chase Blackburn replaced him in the starting lineup. But it's not Beason's lack of skill that marks him as the perfect example of nightmare personnel decisions for the Panthers, it's his contract. Marty Hurney's swan song -- perhaps motivated by, ahem, higher powers -- featured the ex-GM doing his best Contract Fairy impersonation, dishing out deals to guys like DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Beason and Thomas Davis. Williams and Davis have each had a renaissance of sorts but major contracts to four guys that only play two positions isn't typically a smart move. Mix in the decision to give up future first-round picks for Jimmy Clausen and Everette Brown and you have a serious recipe for disaster.
Broncos at COWBOYS (+7.5): Betting against Peyton Manning is a bold and stupid move four weeks into this season. His on-pace numbers are Madden-like and almost stupid, really. (5,880 yards, 64 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, etc.) But if I know anything about the Cowboys, it's that they'll bounce back from a tough road loss against the Chargers to scare the Broncos here. Then they'll manage to beat the Redskins with a great Tony Romo performance at home -- featuring Jerry Jones doing something GIF-able in his owner's box -- and follow that up with a hideous loss in Philadelphia. After that they'll cough up 4,000 yards to the Lions on the road and then bottle up Adrian Peterson while beating the Vikings. We'll know NOTHING about this team except that they're 4-4, impossible to figure out and simply can't close out a really crappy division. Ride the rollercoaster, kids.
TEXANS (+6½) at 49ers: The 49ers have a long week and just annihilated the Rams on Thursday night football. Colin Kaepernick and San Francisco are BACK and they are playing hard-nose, run-first, smash-your-face-in football. The Texans on the other hand? Choking dog losers, quarterbacked by a no-clutch, pick-sixing egg named Matt Schaub. They might as well give up on the season. And life while they're at it. That's the hot sports take narrative anyway. It's a classic trap game, which is why I'm so mad the line drifted down below a touchdown.
Chargers at RAIDERS (+4½): Is there anything worse than a football game kicking off at 11:30 at night on the east coast? There was nothing more fun -- back then -- than seeing Hawaii scheduled for a midnight romp with some unwitting sucker. Without fail, the Rainbow Warriors provided a) entertainment, b) an excuse to stay up until 3 am and c) an absolute get-your-mealplan-money-back lock of a parlay with Hawaii and the over. Now? I'm terrified I'll be nodding off on my couch before Matt McGloin even throws his first NFL interception. 18-year-old me thinks I'm a total wuss.
JETS (+10½) at Falcons: I'm a window-down guy on airplanes and I need a ruling on the split windows after a flight this morning. Here's the specific situation: I'm (currently as I type this) in a seat with a window that is CLEARLY mine. But I've also got half a window behind me. I could flick it down pretty easy and tried to a couple times, particularly on the runway when the Florida sun was firing onto my back at 9 a.m. The lady in the row behind me has part of that window as well -- and no other window -- and kept pushing the %$&#ing thing back up. I'm 60 percent sure that the window is "mine" to control in this situation but the extra window next to me gives me serious pause, obviously. I'm also 90 percent sure that I could push my seat into full recline (a move I detest unless it's a red-eye) and completely box this lady out. What's the ruling here?
This Week: 1-0
Last Week 13-2